Konstantin G.

Lifestyle. Activist. Wheelchair user.

I have been disabled since childhood, born in Kazakhstan in 1988. We moved to Belarus when I was 5 years old. In 1996, I started school and studied there for just over 3 years. Then my condition worsened, and teachers began to come to my home. I only finished 9 grades because further education for a wheelchair user did not have great prospects in our country at that time. 2001, we moved from our old small house to our own three-room apartment on the ground floor. When I was about 17 years old, I got my first computer, and I became very interested in technology, learning how to create websites, draw, and retouch in Photoshop. I started earning some small amounts of money. I have no problem learning something new, and now I am interested in Fusion 360. As the years went by, I became weaker and could no longer move without a wheelchair. My dad made a homemade ramp for the steps, but as I got older and heavier, it became harder to use. Dad would leave for work in Russia for a month, and I would have to stay at home or ask friends to help me get in and out of the apartment. It was tough, and we began to ask the government to build a ramp for us. They always refused. In 2016, I became an Individual Entrepreneur, started working with a friend from Germany, selling second-hand items and military uniforms wholesale. Within a few months, I managed to earn enough for a lift that we built near the balcony. It was very expensive for us, but very necessary. Since then, I have never asked anyone for help to go for a walk outside. Because I spent my own money on the lift, I became principled in fighting for the rights of disabled people and for an accessible environment in the city. I decided that if they couldn't allocate money for a ramp for me, then they should create a barrier-free environment throughout the city. We all have the right to this by law. I collected signatures throughout the city, and sympathetic people signed my petition. I met with local authorities, and they received me and listened to my concerns. Work on the barrier-free environment began the same year. I monitored and spoke out when things were not done correctly because by that time, I already knew all the standards well. There is still a lot of work to be done, but at least now I don't have to move along the roadway in the busy part of the city. In 2020, the pandemic began and the borders were closed. Trade came to a halt, and since then, there has been no income. I am living solely on government assistance, which is around 150 euros. That same year, my friend passed away, which was a strong shock for my entire family. I wanted to get an electric wheelchair in the summer of 2021. The government could only provide a Belarusian-made one, which is worse than a Chinese one. So my parents and I decided to buy a used European wheelchair. We were looking for something not too expensive, but when I started searching, I realized that we couldn't find anything for less than $5000. I thought we could take out a little loan since my dad was still working in Russia, and we could pay it back slowly. But then a tragedy struck - my dad passed away from COVID-19 in the fall of 2021. I lost all motivation and didn't want anything anymore, and we could forget about the loan - we wouldn't be able to pay it back. I have no income, and my mom's salary isn't high - her salary and my allowance only cover housing and food. In December 2021, I took a step that I would never have taken under different circumstances - I decided to try to raise money for an electric wheelchair from all over the world, but already for a new one - it cost 10,000 euros. We opened all the necessary accounts, and I became actively involved in social media, communicating with bloggers, various media outlets. And to my great surprise, I was able to raise the money for the wheelchair in 4 weeks. I didn't believe such a thing was possible, but now I do and I thank everyone who helped me. In early February 2022, I ordered and paid for the wheelchair, which cost me 11500 euros. Then came February 24, 2022. It was scary, but you get used to everything. They sent me the wheelchair in early summer. Having an electric wheelchair made things much easier, and it was an indescribable feeling to sit comfortably in it and move around without depending on anyone. Unfortunately, something happened to the wheelchair after 2 months, and I could only travel 3-5 kilometers on a single charge. In the fall of 2022, I sent it to the Ottobock service center in Moscow. After a few months, they told me they would replace both the battery and the motors. At the same time, I decided that the original gel batteries were not enough for me, as they could travel a maximum of 16 kilometers. I am an active person, and this was not enough for me. I bought a 105 Ah LiFePo4 battery, which promises to increase the range to an average of 50 kilometers. Now I dream of a car with a ramp, something like a Volkswagen Caddy Maxi, so that my mother and I can travel to another city, go to the hospital, or just take a walk. It would be even better if there was a large bus with a lift, something like a Volkswagen Crafter, so that we could travel far for visits and have the ability to go to a safe place at any time. I don't know if my dream will ever come true, but I believe. In our country, there are many nuances in the laws that are supposed to improve the lives of people with disabilities, such as providing benefits. However, these laws are not well thought out, and regular people take advantage of these benefits instead of those who really need them. I hope that someday I will be able to compensate for the expenses for the lift and overturn amendments in the law on preferential import duty for cars, which almost cannot help a person with a disability, but everyone else benefits from it.

If you want to support me in realizing my dream, click here.